Serving our mission in Italy has allowed me to learn about local dishes, and today’s blog features a favorite! Thanks to the generosity of Laura, co-owner of a local ristorante kitchen located in the historical center of Barga, I have been learning about traditional regional dishes during my time in Italy.
This white lasagna is different than anything I had ever made, as it showcases artichokes as the main flavor in this Italian classic. Rather than eat the outer leaves as we do in the States, the more tender inner leaves and heart are selected. Tasty and oh-so delizioso, this has become a surprise favorite on our table!
Ingredients and directions for the béchamel sauce are listed below, but you may also refer to our Baked Cauliflower Pie blog. That recipe is doubled below for this lasagna.
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Lasagne al Carciofo - Tuscan White Artichoke Lasagna
Melt butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add shallots (if using) and sauté 2 minutes. Do not let brown.
Reduce heat to low, add flour, and whisk until smooth and raw taste is cooked off, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Add bay leaf and cook until just thickened, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
Stir in nutmeg and salt. Season with ground white pepper. Cool sauce slightly. Discard bay leaf before using.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Prepare the artichokes by cutting off the tops, about 2 inches. Chop the stem, leaving the leaves attached and cut the whole artichoke in half.
Thinly slice the artichoke in half vertically and set aside.
Drizzle the bottom of a pan with olive oil and add the slices of artichoke. Season with salt and pepper and cook until tender. Remove from heat.
Gently combine the cooked artichoke with béchamel sauce and set aside
Thinly coat the bottom of a casserole dish with the béchamel sauce and begin layering the lasagna, beginning with the noodles, béchamel, and mozzarella. Continue layering for 3 layers, ending with a topping of mozzarella cheese.
Bake in the oven approximately 45 minutes or until the noodles are fully cooked, and the lasagna is bubbling around the edges.
Christmas wouldn’t be “Christmas” without at least a sprinkling of homemade food gifts. However I was not too excited when a sister suggested our making apple butter as one of our gifts to give this year. That is, not until I came down into the convent kitchen early one morning and sampled a “Trial Run” of butter which had been making itself in our slow cooker all night while we had all been fast asleep.
As I ate my last bite of hot buttered toast topped with this delectable wonder I was convinced that this was the perfect “homemade” gift for us to give this Christmas. My only concern being would there be enough left by Christmas eve to give away to others?
With the holidays just around the corner, you might be looking for a new and unusual crowd-pleasing side dish to wow your guests. This is one of my favorite vegetable dishes, introduced to me by Tessa Kiros in her wonderful cookbook: Twelve: A Tuscan Cook Book. She introduces the readers to the twelve months of Tuscan cooking and seasonal ingredients. When I’ve served at our mission house in Tuscany, I would cook through this book and this recipe became one of our house favorites. As Tessa says, “pastry-less baked vegetable pies are very common and are made with various vegetables depending on the season, such as green beans, artichokes and spinach.” You can also use broccoli in place of cauliflower.
We just served this last night for the opening to our Gregorian Chant Retreat and received great compliments. This would make a lovely addition to your Thanksgiving table. If you want to make it gluten free, just substitute gluten free flour for all purpose flour in the the béchamel sauce.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees/ Wash the cauliflower and trim away the hard stem. Put it into a pot of boiling salted water and boil for about 10 min. or until it has softened.
Meanwhile, make the béchamel sauce:
1) Melt butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add shallots (if using) and sauté 2 minutes. Do not let brown.
2) Reduce heat to low, add flour, and whisk until smooth and raw taste is cooked off, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Add bay leaf and cook until just thickened, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
3) Stir in nutmeg and salt. Season with ground white pepper. Cool sauce slightly. Discard bay leaf before using.
Drain the cauliflower and chop it up finely or roughly puree it. Put into a bowl and mix in the eggs, 2 cups béchamel, parmesan cheese, a grating of fresh nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste, adjusting if necessary. Mix well with wooden spoon.
Butter an oven dish or loaf pan and sprinkle with half of the breadcrumbs to line the pan, shaking away the excess (use gluten free breadcrumbs if making gluten free). Pour in the mixture and sprinkle the surface with the remaining breadcrumbs.
Bake for 30-40 min. in the hot oven, until the top is golden and slightly crusty. Serve warm.
As we finished harvesting all of our winter squash for the season, it only felt appropriate to take a few inside and enjoy a lovely, warm bisque that has all the flavors of fall. By roasting the squash along with all the spices and sugar in this recipe, you’ll bring alive the essential oils buried in them and caramelizing the squash at the same time—achieving a depth of flavor you can’t get by starting this on the stove top.
We are busy bustling around and getting ready for our Arts in Celebration weekend, but remembering how important it is to balance our life with the simple pleasures that God gives us. We do hope you will consider joining us over this next week to experience beauty and the arts, as we commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Prepare butternut squash and toss in a bowl with 6 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp Kosher salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and brown sugar
Spread squash on two parchment or foil lined baking trays and roast in oven for 30 - 35 min. or until tender when pierced with a fork (stirring occasionally).
While the squash is roasting, prepare your leeks and pears. Place the sliced leeks in a bowl of cold water to remove any excess dirt, then remove.
Heat a large dutch oven with the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil and 1 Tbsp of butter. Saute leeks over medium heat until golden and soft. Add pears and then the roasted butternut squash, scraping all the goodness off the pan.
Add the broth and bring to a simmer, cover and cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 10 min.
Remove from heat, and puree with an immersion blender, until completely smooth.
Adjust seasonings (add additional 1 tsp. salt) and cream, milk (or additional stock) to the consistency you prefer.
Our Convent bakers are always thinking ahead and experimenting — their thoughts and ideas are often very innovative! This week they were totally into Thanksgiving and enjoying it thoroughly. They assured me that I would be pleased with the final outcome of their efforts and how right they were! I had heard pumpkin being mentioned so I was expecting a pumpkin dessert of some sort. Instead they produced the tastiest dinner rolls which could not have pleased me more — whimsical little pumpkin-shaped creations, each complete with its own stem. I can’t wait to see the smiles on every person as they gather around the table this year.
In a bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Sprinkle with sugar; let stand for 5 minutes. Add milk, brown sugar, pumpkin, butter, salt, spices and 2 cups flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 24 evenly-sized pieces. Working a few at a time, roll each piece of dough into a 12-inch rope on an un-floured surface. Before shaping, lightly dust ropes with flour, and then, with floured hands, turn each one into a pumpkin.
Create a small loop in the rope with a long tail on one side and a short tail on the other. Wrap the long tail around the edge of the loop 2-to-3 times. Hold the remaining end of the long tail on the bottom-side of the loop with a finger to keep it from unraveling as you continue to work. Wrap the other tail around the edge of the loop, tucking it through the center of the loop.
Pinch both of the ends together where they meet on the bottom side of the loop. If you’re not happy with the look of any of the rolls, simply set them aside for about 10 to 15 minutes and reshape. Place finished rolls on parchment lined baking sheets. Cover rolls loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for about 10 minutes.
Just before baking, brush rolls with an egg wash for a shiny look or butter for a matte finish. Insert a sliced pecan into the center of each roll, pressing so the pecan touches the pan. In an oven preheated to 400° F, bake rolls for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time. Rolls should be golden brown and gently firm to the touch. If not serving right away, shorten the baking time by several minutes and finish baking right before eating.